Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Denise A. Hien

Subject Categories



Aggression, Alexithymia, Intergenerational Transmission, Interpersonal Violence, PTSD, Trauma


This study examined the direct relationship between maternal exposure to childhood interpersonal violence (sexual and/or physical abuse) and behavioral problems in her pre- to early-adolescent children. It also examined whether maternal aggression (psychological and physical aggression) and emotion dysregulation (lifetime PTSD diagnosis and alexithymia) exerted a significant indirect effect on this relationship. This study was a secondary analysis of data collected from a cross-sectional and cross-generational study designed to examine associations among maternal impairments (substance abuse, general psychopathology, neuropychological functioning), child-rearing deficits (parenting deficits, child neglect, child physical/ sexual abuse), and adverse child outcomes (self-regulation deficits, aggressive behavior, and substance use). Using the bootstrapping method, a multiple mediation path analysis was conducted with a sample of 147 mother and child pairs. No direct relationship emerged between the maternal childhood interpersonal violence exposure and behavioral problems in her child. Although there were significant associations along the emotion dysregulation paths, no significant indirect effects emerged. However, maternal aggression exerted a significant indirect effect on this relationship. Sixty-eight percent of the relationship between maternal exposure to childhood interpersonal violence and her child's behavioral problems was accounted for by maternal aggression, firmly establishing that psychological variables significantly influence intergenerational transmission. This study expands on earlier findings with younger children by showing the link between violence experienced in a mother's childhood and maladjustment in her child exists in older children as well. It suggests that this distress, in the mother, her child, and their relationship, may persist throughout the years. This distress is detrimental to her child's well being, as the affective and behavioral difficulties these children exhibit, apparent on the eve of adolescence, take on pressing need for intervention. The need to address the behavioral problems is paramount, as childhood internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems are associated with a host of long-term psychological, physical and social challenges.

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